We Have a Ghost lacks the style of Landon’s ideologies, instead, becoming a lazy reproduction of those cheesy and ghostly experiences of a previous era.
BY JOHN MCDONALD MARCH 2, 2023
Christopher Landon’s body of work consists mainly of quirky little horrors like Happy Death Day and Freaky (the latter being an underappreciated gem as well), and then there’s his writing work on intense thrillers like Disturbia. But his latest offering, We Have a Ghost, seems completely foreign compared to his previous work, and the outcome is not a worthwhile experience either. Fresh to Netflix, We Have a Ghost lacks the style of Landon’s ideologies, instead, becoming a lazy reproduction of those cheesy and ghostly experiences of a previous era like the cult classic Beetlejuice, or, to a lesser extent, Casper, which, as we all know, wasn’t exactly a ground-breaking film.
We Have a Ghost - which is based on the 2017 short story “Ernest” by Geoff Manaugh - begins with the current tenants leaving in terror following the discovery of something mysterious. One year later, the Presleys decide to view the house but become suspicious of the extremely low asking price, something the estate agent claims to be normal. The family’s patriarch Frank (Anthony Mackie) his wife Melanie (Erica Ash), and their two sons Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) and Fulton (Niles Fitch) decide to move in and start fresh, once again, something that has become a common occurrence in their lives.
The family are constantly locking horns, mainly Kevin and Frank who just can’t seem to reignite that loving relationship they once had, which leads the moody teenager to disassociate himself from his family. While exploring the rustic house though, Kevin starts to feel a strange presence which turns out to be Ernest (David Harbour), an old, bowling shirt-wearing ghost with a comb-over, who has been haunting this house for decades. After a failed attempt to scare Kevin (kids these days just don’t have any fear), it’s not long before the two begin to bond through their own similar bouts of loneliness. Kevin is also eyeing up his next-door neighbour Joy (Isabella Russo) who assists Kevin with the mystery of who Ernest actually is. In this day and age though, with mobile phones and YouTube, Kevin’s
family, and the rest of the country it seems, are aware of Ernest’s existence, which leads to chaotic fanfare and the fast-approaching CIA.
Landon has tried to create an experience of nostalgia by incorporating clichés into the story, and for that “feel good factor” to become the film’s main source of potency. The amount of cheese and cringeworthy moments are noticeable from the start, almost knocking you over with a waft of predictability. It tries too hard to be funny and overly reliant on being touching with all its heartfelt moments of bliss, and with the camaraderie between Ernest and Kevin. And even with these niceties forced down your throat at every angle, who would have thought that the film’s best moments, the scenes that really sink in, were the moments built around family tension. The warring father and son offer the film some realism, which is hard to come by with a story about a ghost. If you can stomach the playful parts, then you deserve some grit, and this offers some at the right moments.
It’s fair to say that We Have a Ghost is a bit of a mess, often throwing things in at random to create an allure of grandeur. Whether it’s the CIA getting involved with its former spectral program led by ghost hunter turned author Dr Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro), topped off with weaponry stolen from the set of Alien, or the incredibly brief cameo by Jennifer Coolidge as the extravagant TV medium trying to get in on the excitement of a real-life ghost (is that even possible?). There’s even a small twist brought on by a classic case of misdirection, but when it does come, it’s so uninspired and obvious that you can’t help but feel the whole thing became a bit of a damp squib – it’s a mismanaged action adventure film with little to no action; it’s a family comedy with a severe lack of comedy and one with an unoriginal premise that doesn’t have the vigour of its rivals.
With cinema trips not being as high as they were for some people, often preferring to sit in the comfort of their homes, Netflix becomes a household's best friend, with copious amounts of watching for the sake of passing time. But with that, it offers We Have a Ghost the chance to be seen by families all around the world. It’s very much at home on the small screen; contempt with being the selection choice for a family who can’t think of anything else to watch – just don’t expect much from this 2-hour plus film as it flatters to deceive with its underutilized cast and promise of something fun and interesting.